The Words of the Rueter Family
Victory Celebration for the Women’s Middle East Peace Initiative
January 29, 2006
Women’s Federation for World Peace, USA
Southern California Chapter
10 Million+ Signature Campaign
On Sunday, January 29th, more than 150 members and friends of WFWP, USA’s Southern California Chapter, gathered in a bright, sunny garden at Vanguard Hollywood to participate in our 5th Annual "Welcome the New Year Tea," and to celebrate Victory for the Women’s Middle East Peace Initiative (WMEPI) Declaration of Peace Signature Campaign. Our dream of gathering one million signatures was far exceeded by the reality of collecting 10 million, 800 thousand signatures when the campaign officially ended on the United Nations International Day for Human Rights, December 10, 2005. We had a lot to celebrate!
The WMEPI Declaration of Peace, was drafted in January, 2004, to promote peace in the Middle East from a woman’s perspective. The purpose of the Declaration of Peace is to support women of the Middle East at home and abroad; to turn the hearts and minds of women worldwide to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East; and to encourage women to use their God-given nature to contribute to lasting peace in the region, as well as throughout the world.
On the heels of a resolution (4/30/04) by the Los Angeles City Council to recognize and commend the work of WFWP and the WMEPI, on May 2, 2004, more than 250 women representing diverse ethnic and faith backgrounds gathered at the Los Angeles Friendship Center to participate in a deeply moving "Bridge of Peace Ceremony," and become the first signers of the WMEPI Declaration of Peace.
From Los Angeles, Ms Norma Foster, President, United Nations Association Pacific-Los Angeles Chapter and National Advisor to WFWP, USA carried the Declaration to Geneva, Switzerland for the Eighth Annual Conference on Peace in the Middle East, sponsored by WFWP Japan. Women delegates from seventeen Middle Eastern nations attended the program and nine national delegations signed the Declaration. Next, signatures were collected during the "Women of Peace Program," sponsored by WFWP and IIFWPU, which brought 526 women from 41 nations to Jerusalem. Participation in the signature campaign further expanded to more than 35 nations as an international resolution to support it was formally adopted at the Fifth Annual WFWP International Leaders Workshop, held in Seebenstein, Austria in September of 2004.
Over the past eighteen months, signatures were collected through grass roots efforts, door-to-door visitation, at public events, and through the support of like minded NGO’s and organizations around the world.
On January 29th, a lovely garden patio, a happy Buddha statue, and the "Hollywood Sign," became the back drop for a celebratory event that opened with prayers led by leaders representing the three Abrahamic Faiths: Mrs. Nahid Kabbani, Palestinian and Founder/President of "One World," Rev. Clara Epps, and Mrs. Ariella Shira Lewis.
Mr. Jordan Birnbaum, owner of Vanguard Hollywood, one of the largest nightclub and concert venues in Los Angeles, graciously donated the use of the venue as well as technical support, serving staff, and all of the delicious food and refreshments for this event. As the ladies enjoyed "tea" together they were entertained by the beautiful background music of John Holmes on piano and the lovely voice of Mrs. Annette Moss who sang "Sebben Crudele," by composer Antonio Caldera accompanied by Brent Wilday.
Ms. Norma Foster served as master of ceremonies and several presentations were made. Ms Leslie Orticke, President, Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women, read a personal congratulatory letter from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "On behalf of the City of Los Angeles, I extend my appreciation for your invaluable leadership in completing the WMEPI Signature campaign. It is fitting that a resolution from the City of Los Angeles Council that helped launch the campaign is now celebrating its victory." An official Congratulatory Declaration was also extended from the County of Los Angeles, Board of Supervisors.
Letters of congratulations were read from Dr. Thomas Walsh, Secretary General, Univeral Peace Federation, Dr. Lan Young Moon, President, WFWP International, and Mrs. Alexa Ward, President, WFWP, USA. Dr. Walsh reminded us that we not only succeeded in collecting more than 10 million signatures, but we also "helped in educating, raising awareness and securing commitments for peace from more than 10 million people. This is a remarkable achievement."
Sheri Rueter, Vice President, WFWP, USA delivered a power point presentation providing a comprehensive overview of the WMEPI, outlining the activities of WFWP, USA in 2005, and presenting national and local goals for 2006. An edited (shortened) version of the moving video "Women of Peace," which documented the WMEPI efforts in the Middle East process served to conclude the formal part of the program.
From that point we "broke out" into singing and dancing! A VICTORY cake was cut by several representative leaders as Rick Joswick and the "Origins" choir led a spirited version of "Peace, Shalom, Salaam Aleichum" and the assembled ladies sang along and danced around the patio together. In closing, we held hands and sang our signature "Let There Be Peace on Earth," uniting in heart with each other as we pledged to continue our work to make "The Peace Kingdom" a reality for every person in the world.
This event will not be forgotten because it lives in our hearts, but also because it was extensively covered by the media. Camera crews were present throughout the event from both ABC and FOX News. ABC-7 featured a lengthy segment on our event on their local evening and morning news programs. FOX-11 aired a segment on the morning news as well. "Through this initiative, we have opened the door for dialogue as well as actions for peace, together with the women, children and families of the Middle East," stated Ms. Norma Foster in an interview. At a time when the Middle East remains embroiled in war and conflict….the Women’s Middle East Peace Initiative provides a ray of hope and truly is an historic measure.
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